José Manuel Viegas Azevedo, professor at the University of the Azores, and Francisco Otero Ferrer, post-doctoral researcher at the University Institute of Aquaculture and Sustainable Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA) and member of ABAS (Association for Atlantic Biodiversity and Sustainability) attended the Third International Island Biology Conference, held in July (8-13) on the island of La Réunion (France), representing the MOVE project.
This European Union (EU) project, which will run for 3 years and is coordinated by the Regional Fund for Science and Technology (FRCT) of the Regional Government of the Azores, involves a total of 14 organizations, mostly universities and research institutes.
The International Island Biology Conference took place for the first time in Hawaii in 2014, and the second edition was held subsequently in the Azores in 2016. The latest in La Réunion has managed to bring together more than 400 experts in marine and terrestrial ecosystems related to island environments.
José Azevedo presented an oral communication within a session dedicated to conservation, explaining the need to preserve biodiversity in the European overseas islands based on the experience acquired in the Macaronesia. “These places constitute,” said Azevedo, “a privileged place to focus conservation efforts and check their effectiveness”.
In his presentation, he gave the example of the BEST initiative, promoted by the EU, which is based on the distribution of endangered species in the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, and through which key biodiversity areas (KBAs) have been geographically identified in which the degree of protection was low or non-existent.
Azevedo also explained how large gaps in knowledge about Macaronesian biodiversity and its conservation have come to light, as well as the insufficient legislative framework at regional or European level to protect many of the threatened species existing in this ecoregion. In his opinion, “if we want to halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe, investment in basic science and monitoring must increase, and the conservation of biodiversity must be a priority for Europe”.
At the same time, Francisco Otero Ferrer presented another oral communication within a session dedicated to marine ecology, focusing on the environmental factors affecting the structure and functioning of rhodolith seabeds on different islands of the eastern Atlantic, including Madeira (Portugal), Gran Canaria (Spain) and Príncipe (Republic of São Tome and Príncipe, located in the Gulf of Guinea).
During the study carried out by this Galician researcher, the depth of the rhodoliths was evaluated on the three islands. The results showed that, in all environments, ocean currents affect the shape and size of rhodoliths in shallower areas, while at depth the most important factor affecting these algae is the loss of light.
The study also showed that the islands are excellent natural laboratories for carrying out this type of research.
Nature is in a dangerous and unprecedented decline. Biodiversity shows a declining trend at rates unprecedented in human history. The rates of species extinctions and the trends of ecosystem degradation / destruction are accelerating, with tremendous impacts on the numerous Ecosystem Services used by people around the world.
This is what emerges from the 2019 Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), dopted at its 7th Plenary Meeting held between 29 April and 4 May 2019; a study with clear alarming data on the World Nature Health.
The IPBES 2019 Report is the most comprehensive ever completed. It has been compiled by 145 expert experts from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors. It is the first intergovernmental report of its kind and it was built on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, presented by the United Nation, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence at local, regional and global levels.
The IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson, following the presentation of this report, said that “the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the foundations of our economies, livelistyles, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” He added that “this Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global”.
The global assessment confirms that over the last 50 years biodiversity and ecosystem services, essential for human existence and well-being, are deteriorating globally and at a faster rate than ever before: 75% of the Earth’s surface has been significantly altered; over 85% of the surface of wetlands has been lost and 66% of the ocean surface is experiencing cumulative effects. Some 25% of animal and plant species assessed are threatened (over 40% of amphibians, almost 33% of reef corals and over a third of marine mammals, among other results). More than 9% of domesticated mammal breeds became extinct by 2016 and at least 1,000 more breeds are threatened.